Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Keep Your Seats, Senators

Our pottymouth speaker speaks
John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, hit a new rhetorical low this week when he told Senators to “get off their ass” and produce legislation to avoid cutting some $85 billion from the remainder of this year’s federal expenditures. We presume the 100 Senators were not sitting on a donkey and also do not have a collective behind. However, let us hope no one awards Boehner an “F” for bad grammar.  He might use it with a few other letters to plummet deeper into the depths of coarse discourse, something he has done before.

Seldom does the geezer find common ground with the Tea Party crowd in Congress, but this time we are the strangest of bedfellows. The conservative Republicans in the House and I both want the Senators to keep their backsides firmly rooted in their chairs and do nothing. Letting “sequestration” take effect on Friday could be managed as a good step forward in what has become a tiresome, interminable budget battle in Washington.

The arch-conservative Representatives have been busily trying to convince us that serious sequestration consequences (they think cutting defense spending would be catastrophic) should be blamed on President Obama. It is true that the Administration conceived the sequestration plan. The Tea Partiers are correct about that. Their problem is that the American people don’t believe them. According to many polls, a majority will blame sequestration problems squarely on the Republicans.

Mr. Obama has been just as busily touring the country and issuing state-by-state assessments proclaiming that cutting up to 13 percent in defense spending and 9 percent in other discretionary spending areas will have horrific consequences. The centerpiece of the presidential arguments is that 750,000 jobs will disappear at a time when the economy is still struggling to right itself. That is a lot of hooey.

The cuts in defense can be achieved by temporarily reducing the number of hours civilian employees work this year. That will be unpleasant for the workers, of course, but their jobs would not be eliminated. Managers would have seven months to make useful economies and return the employees to full-time status.  That should not be difficult considering the bloated condition of defense accounts, which Congress has been inflating almost without question for more than a decade.

Cuts in the other programs would cause some undesirable job losses and reductions in essential services, but Social Security and Medicaid would not be affected at all and only modest cuts would occur in Medicare reimbursements to healthcare providers. In a few cases, states can be expected to cover some of the federal shortfall should sequestration take place.

The President should call Boehner’s bluff. Let the cuts take place, and then have separate pieces of legislation quickly introduced to restore funding to all accounts that truly need it, but do not include defense. Republicans and Democrats in both houses then could let all of us see their true colors as they vote each federal service up or down.

The federal debt and budget deficit are serious matters, all the foggy mutterings of economists about percentages of domestic product and similar theoretical guidelines aside. The simple truth is that far too much of our tax revenue is going to pay interest on a gigantic debt, and the situation is getting worse by the day. That interest money should be used for things that benefit our society, not just investors who find U.S. bonds the safest place in the world to park their excess cash. It is important to get on with spending reductions, appropriate tax increases, and closing tax loopholes to set our financial house in order.

Although Medicare spending is far from sustainable and needs to be dealt with, defense is the biggest money sink in the federal budget right now. In recent years, it has been impossible to rein in defense budgets. That well known “military-industrial complex” simply has too much power with Congress, and until now, has had full support from administrations.  Sequestration is the best opportunity that may come along in many years to take a real whack out of unnecessary defense spending.

Hold firm, Senators. Do what you do best—nothing. Sequestration can be turned into a positive thing for our nation. 


Kay said...

Wow! I didn't know what to believe about this whole mess, but what you're saying sounds reasonable. OK...

I hope you're right.

PiedType said...

I'm one of those quick to blame the GOP for sequestration, but no one in Washington is blameless. We have a bunch of politicians there more concerned with playing politics than in working for the good of the country.

I believe much of the catastrophizing about the effects of sequestration is media hype. It will be interesting to see what actually happens, who will be hit the hardest, and who in Congress will feel most obliged to remedy the results of their do-nothing approach to governance.

Dick Klade said...

Pied, I probably should have said "the administration did propose sequestration, but primarily because the conservatives forced them to." As you said, both parties should shard blame for the frustrating impasses.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

Dear Geezer, As usual, I agree with part of what you suggest.

1. Having gotten into trouble for using the A word in the past, I am for free speech. Ass is an animal. Spelled with an R is is something else.

2. I would never condemn a body of people...ever. Some senators, such as our VA senator Mark Warner, and a few others...mostly Republican, are very interested in good fiscal discipline.

3. Sequestration is a drop in the bucket. It won't even get us back to the year 2009 when O took office. It can work well, if it is made in a rational manner.

For example, why slow down air travel and build roads to nowhere in some places. I could list a lot of examples, but as you appear to be well read, I am sure you can too.

You probably get tired of hearing me mention my time on a Congressional staff in the 1970s, but I will share this. Most legislation contains no "sunset provisions." That means even after a funded goal is reached, there is no way to turn off funding.

You and I both worked for governments and we know there is much waste fraud and abuse.

So yes, I am for sequestration. I don't think our spending ourselves into penury is going to change any other way. Dianne

schmidleysscribblins, said...

PS in his book the 'Price of Politics', Bob Woodward says it was O's idea to do the sequestration.

He reiterated the charge last Sunday in the Washington Post. He said O got the idea from the old Graham-Rudman plan which was agreed to under Reagan and implementsed under G.W. Bush and led to the budget surpluses of the Clinton years.


joared said...

50You make a lot of good points as you often do. I'm often reminded of former President General Dwight Eisenhower's admonitions about concerns associated with the military complex. I think Dianne makes a good point about so much government funding in various areas that has no sunset provision. I surely hope some up and down voting on issues does occur without cluttering with unrelated add-ons. Certainly both political parties must accept responsibility for the mess our nation is in financially. I await resolution of some of these issues.

joared said...

Don't know where the "50" in my comment above came from -- no significance.